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THE CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN,
STAKE-NETS IN THE CHURCH.
We are not disposed to quarrel much independency of thought and rugged with the last sentence in Mr. Ruskin's diction about this gentleman's style, advertisement to his curious “ Notes that forcibly reminds one of Luther's on the Construction of Sheepfolds.” manly declaration to Spalatin, “I am He says, “If, however, any should not willing to be the slave of the opiadmit the truth, but regret the tone nions of men.” It was not without of what I have said, I can only pray deep spiritual and mental conflict them to consider how much less harm and labour that that great apostle of is done in the world by ungraceful Germany burst the iron bondage of boldness, than by untimely fear.” We his ecclesiastical prejudices, and threw are no enemies to the prudence and away one by one those doctrines true courtesies which Christianity com- and opinions which had been stereomands by precept, and commends by typed in his youthful mind. God example; but the truth has often became his teacher, His truth made most grievously suffered by the false him free; and soon his spirit and his charity which has wrapped its utter- mind gavė ample evidence that he ance in silken refinements, and by was free indeed. Knowing little or the timidity which has allowed the 'nothing of Mr. Ruskin but what manimost opportune seasons to pass by, fests itself in his published works, without boldly pleading and energeti- we dare hardly venture any augury cally supporting the measures which as to what place he may be destined truth demands.
to fill, or what work it may be given We can forget much that savours him to accomplish; in the “Seven of hasty and ungraceful dogmatism in Lamps of Architecture," "The Stones Mr. Ruskin's writing, from the very of Venice,” and “Modern Painters," fact, that we trace in his “Notes"
we trace the accomplished scholar the clear indication, that it is because and the enlightened and independent he is in earnest sincerity in his en- critic; but in the work which more deavours to arrive at truth himself, immediately concerns the pages in that he is fearlessly honest and out- which these remarks may appear, we spoken in his declarations. There is an find, and gladly hail, much that
makes us hope for, if not demand, a is equally true of those who differ still further development of such from us. vigorous and unfettered thought. It We do not, and cannot, work tois not our purpose to write a review gether, because we take, and that of these “Notes on the Construction strongly albeit insensibly, limited and of Sheepfolds;" the present is rather false views of the character of the an endeavour to see how far we, as whole Church of Christ, and our indiadvocates of a restoration of Church vidual and mutual relationship to it, as matters to something like the purity the many branches of the one true Vine. and intention of the true and early Our grand error is in practically Church, are aided and encouraged by taking up the opinion, and then acting this writer.
upon it, that to be real members of When men begin to think seriously the Church of Christ, we must closely upon religion, and attentively to ob- embrace the same forms of Church goserve the manifested opinions and vernment, some of which may be but actions of the bulk of their fellow dimly shadowed forth in Scripture ; Christians, Churchmen as well as and may be fairly interpreted in the Dissenters, they must be sometimes threefold way, held by Episcopalians, painfully affected by the apparent Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. unreality of their belief in the exist
Whatever may be said of the acknowence of “ the universal Church.” We ledgment by these parties of a grand Churchmen profess it in our creeds ; centre of union existing for each in but in the common and constant work- the universal Church of Christ, to the ings of our minds, and much more, eye of the world, yes, and even to in the actions of daily life, we go far the unclouded eyes of these Churches to make the profession a mere nega- themselves, the acknowledgment is tion. With the Word of God in our virtually a bare and unsubstantial hands we contrive so, practically, to vision. We must strive to get right read and determine its sense, in the views here; the time is coming when matter of the one true Church of they will be largely needed. Christ, as to limit its extent to those To borrow Mr. Ruskin's expression, who think with us or at all approxi- we plant too many “stake-nets " in mate to our ideas in the external in
our several sheepfolds, which do not stitutions of worship and Church go- keep out evil and unclean beasts, but vernment.
which have the effect of preventing For all purposes of real acknow- the entrance of the common sheep of ledgment, as in the sight of God, of Christ; and until we shall severally brotherhood in Christ, we all fall im- agree to destroy all these lindrances mediately short of what the Great to real union and communion, the Shepherd looks for from the various Church of Christ will never present members of His many sheepfolds. We its winning aspect of “oneness” to are strange one to another; and what the world. We are too much occuis worse, if others bleat not as we pied with our own little enclosures, bleat, and feed not as we feed, we and the laws and external and inare very chary how we actually allow ternal arrangements we have laid them to be sheep of Christ at all. We down as indispensable accompanisay not this of Churchmen only, it ments to Church membership, for us
to be willing, openly and heartily, to and feeling it to be wrong, instead of love and acknowledge as brethren all labouring to get rid of it altogether, those who are equally with us loved we have been taught to explain away and acknowledged by Christ.
the fact with reasons miserably inWe have our peculiar “stake-nets sufficient. The very actions which the in the Church of England, which not Priest may do, and which the Deacon only have the effect of warning off, may not do, give more than a colour and effectually separating us from to the charges of those who say that we other communions, but which are also affect a priesthood altogether done perpetually entangling and worrying away with; and if we thus give to men, the minds and consciences of many
or suffer them to retain, an exploded of the best members in our own body. title, we must not wonder if they
1. We so strongly hold the doc- strive to assume the prerogative of the trine of the threefold order of the office itself. Mr. Ruskin well states ministry, that for all purposes of near the question in the following words, and positive inter-communion, we un- “As for the unhappy retention of the church every other non-episcopal term Priest, in our English Prayerbranch of Christ's Church. Evange- book, so long as it was understood to licals may lament this, but they make mean nothing but an upper order of no positive and vigorous effort to at- Church officer,-licensed to tell the tain a less isolated and more brotherly congregation from the reading-desk, position.
what (for the rest) they might, one 2. The state of our episcopacy, in would think, have known without station and revenue, cannot be de- being told, that "God pardoneth all fended by the boldest champion for them that truly repent,'—there was the integrity of our Church, except little harm in it; but now that this he be one who is content with the order of clergy begins to presume upon spectacle of the Church in its present a title, which, if it mean anything at aspect of too close an alliance and all, is simply short for Presbyter, and identity with the world.
has no more to do with the word Yet here, what strong protest is Hiereus than with the word Levite, it ever made by Evangelicals ? When is time that some order should be have they ever as a body faithfully taken both with the book and the declared their sentiments upon the un- clergy. ... The office of the Lawgiver spiritualizing nature of the too exalted and the Priest is now for ever gathered station of the English Episcopate? We
into One Mediator between God and may have held, and privately declared man; and they are guilty of the sin our individual sentiment, but no bold of Korah who blasphemously would and faithful remonstrance has ever pro- associate themselves in His Mediatorceeded from a quarter, from which, if ship:"--Ruskin, pp. 24 to 25. from anywhere, it was to be expected. 4. The manner in which the ap
3. The very term of Priest, used pointments of these “Church officers” by our Church for the second order is made. Of bishops, by an appointof the ministry, is an offence, and a ment from the minister of the day. Of “stake-net” of no ordinary character. vicars, rectors, and other incumbents, Here too how unfaithful have we for the most part, by a single patron, been to scriptural truth. Knowing,
without the voice or veto of a single
flock, which is too often handed over to gards their effect on the minds of the a hireling pastor by the filthy lucre- Clergy. It is indeed true that Christ moved hammer of a clerical auctio- promised absolving power to His Apos
tles : He also promised to those who beAs to the appointment of our bishops, lieved, that they should take up serpents, we have done nothing to remove the
and if they drank any deadly thing, it
should not hurt them. His words were singular anomaly which allows an
fulfilled literally ; but those who would election, but enjoins, or absolutely overrides the choice. As to the disposal times, must extend both promises, or
extend their force to beyond the Apostolic of patronage we may have individu
neither. ally attempted to remedy the evil and
Although, however, the Protestant laity obloquy, by buying uplivings and vest- do not often admit the absolving power of ing them in really christian trustees; their clergy, they are but too apt to yield, but whatever of particular or more ex- in some sort, to the impression of their tended good may have followed such
greater sanctification; and from this ina course, it has been not only neces- stantly results the unhappy consequence sarily limited in extent, but is also an that the sacred character of the Layman unsatisfactory mode of dealing with himself is forgotten, and his own minis.. a great practical evil. If anything is terial duty is neglected. Men not in more than ordinarily self-evident, the
office in the Church suppose themselves, evil of our present system of patron
on that ground, in a sort unholy; and age is too clearly shewn by its prac
that, therefore, they may sin with more tical working in our thousands of excuse, and be idle or impious with less country parishes. Yet in this, we
danger, than the Clergy : especially they
consider themselves relieved from all miEvangelicals are silent and almost
nisterial function, and as permitted to inactive, thankfully accepting the few
devote their whole time and energy to the exceptions of a favourable character,
business of this world. No mistake can and blind to the fearful consequences possibly be greater. Every member of of the overwhelming majority which
the Church is equally bound to the serforms the rule of evil.
vice of the Head of the Church; and that Turning from things external, to the service is pre-eminently the saving of internal arrangement of our Church souls. There is not a moment of a man's worship, we have here also to lament active life in which he may not be inthe presence of too many and too directly preaching; and throughout a potent “stake-nets." An absolution, great part of his life be ought to be which as it stands in our Prayer-book, directly preaching, and teaching both whether we regard the term or its strangers and friends ; his children, his
servants, and all who in any way are put use, is one of these. We cannot state its character and its evil tendency
under him, being given to him as especial
objects of his ministration." better than by quoting Mr. Ruskin :
And we cordially concur in his “ As for the passages in the Ordering
conclusion expressed on the last page of Priests" and " Visitation of the Sick."
of his Notes," that the " English respecting Absolution, they are evidently
Church must cut the term Priest enpure Romanism, and might as well not be there, for any practical effect which tirely out of her Prayer-book, and they have on the consciences of the Laity; substitute for it that of Minister or and had much better not be there, as re- Elder. The passages respecting ab
solution must be thrown out also, ex- either of these services we need not offer cept the doubtful one in the Morning any illustrations;—the character of too Service, in which there is no harm." many a group around the fonts of our
parish churches, and the history of We have only touched upon the far too many a coffin lowered into the above “stake-nets,” which seriously silent grave, will suggest in secret mar the efficient and comprehensive whispers to the minds of our mainworking of a Church we truly love; tainers of the inviolability of the we might enter largely into the con- ritual, that the doctrine of a charitable, sideration of others, which are equally, and in by too far the greatest number if not more detrimental to its truest of instances, a false hypothesis, is no interests.
safe or sound answer to the substanLet us ponder for a moment on the tial reasons of those who plead for multitudes kept out from our commu- services more in consistency with the nion by the scripturally unwarranted revealed truth of God, the chequered terms of our Baptismal Service, while character of man and the finite judgthey are really sources of disquiet, if not ment of his fellow creatures. of a stronger feeling, to many thou- When we reflect
very sands who are unwilling to abandon things in which alteration is either a Church which has, with all its im- desired or needed, we stand astonished perfections, been so signally blessed at the beauty and comparative perof God. The records of our Church fection of the Book itself; but we are history, recent experience, and our as much amazed at the persevering own real feelings, tell us that our Ser- obstinacy or indifference, which previce here, whatever may be the theory, vents the serious consideration of any is too unguarded and unconditional amendment whatever in the particuin its language, and too strongly de- lars pointed out. It really strikes us clarative in its thanksgiving for an much in the same way,—but of course hypothetical benefit; yet the move- in an infinitely higher sense,
-as if, ment for the slightest alteration is on some otherwise excellently apdeclared to be unnecessary and dan- pointed railway, a set of engines gerous, by the very men,
whose con- should be tolerated, which, almost stant line of teaching destroys the perfect yet possessing some defect, very foundation of every explanation . every now and then caused seriby which they declare their adhesion ous accident and alarm, while they to the Service as it is. *
perpetually perilled the safety and The Burial Service acts much in comfort of the trains they propelled. It the same way as a barrier against the might be the absence of some safety comprehension, by our Church, of
valve or screw, it might possibly be many godly ministers and laymen; the provoking stiffness of some crank, while it often sorely torments the or faultiness of a driving-wheel; yet consciences of those who have to use what would be thought of engineers, it indiscriminately. In the case of directors, or shareholders, who per• For a strong proof of this we may refer,
sisted in refusing to listen to cominter aliis, to a tract recently published by Mr.
plaints, and to examine into and to Ryle, entitled “ Are you Regenerate?” A startling enquiry to those readers, over whom may remove, if necessary, the cause of danhave been said the thanksgiving prayer of our baptismal Service.
ger or disconfort. Surely, the very